What Is California’s Lane-Splitting Law in 2020?

by Staff Blogger | October 19th, 2020

Each state has its own motorcycle laws. Some states allow motorcyclists to ride without a helmet, while others don’t. Some have extensive requirements for obtaining a motorcycle license, while other states are less stringent.

One popular—and controversial—motorcycling technique that is also regulated by states is lane-splitting. Though most states have laws forbidding lane-splitting, California is a little different.

First, let’s establish what we mean when we say lane-splitting.

What’s Considered Lane-Splitting in California?

Lane-splitting is when a motorcyclist travels in between lanes to navigate traffic. For example, if there’s a traffic jam on Interstate 280 and a motorcyclist travels between lanes of traffic, riding down the white lane divider line, they’re lane-splitting.

What Is California’s Lane-Splitting Law in 2020?

Obviously, motorcyclists are still required to follow all the rules of the road. But unlike many other states, California does not have a law forbidding lane-splitting.

California even issued lane-splitting safety tips for motorcyclists in 2018. Some of the tips include:

  • Understanding that lane-splitting is more dangerous when done at higher speeds.
  • It’s safest to split between the lanes that are furthest to the left on roads with three lanes or more.
  • Avoid lane-splitting near large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers and buses.
  • Stay visible and avoid lingering in other vehicles’ blind spots.
  • Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing and using high beams in the daytime.

Note that riding on the shoulder of a road is not considered lane-splitting and is not legal. If a motorcyclist rides on the shoulder in California, police officers can (and likely will) give them a ticket.

Is Lane-Splitting Safe?

The Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at UC Berkeley conducted a study that found only 17% of motorcycle crashes from 2012 to 2013 involved lane-splitting.

Studies also suggest that the greater the difference between overall traffic and the motorcycle splitting lanes, the more dangerous lane-splitting becomes. So, it’s important for motorcyclists to avoid traveling more than 10 MPH faster than surrounding traffic. Researchers believe that lane-splitting is safest at speeds under 50 MPH.

Lane-Splitting Isn’t Popular with Other Motorists

The fact that California permits lane-splitting draws the ire of many non-motorcyclists. Several surveys suggest that drivers believe this practice should be illegal. And many drivers don’t even realize that it’s not illegal.

As is typical on our roads, other drivers often have a bias against motorcyclists. It’s not uncommon for drivers to fail to give motorcyclists the space they need to safely navigate our roads.

Sadly, the stigma facing motorcyclists on our roads often follows them into the accident claims process. Insurance companies are notorious for offering motorcyclists lowball settlements or to deny their claims altogether, even when their accidents are caused by drivers purposefully failing to yield to a motorcyclist.

If You Need Legal Representation, We Have Your Back

If you or a loved one was injured by a negligent driver in California, you should know your legal rights so you don’t get taken advantage of by insurance companies.

At Berg Injury Lawyers, our California motorcycle accident attorneys have years of experience ensuring motorcyclists get the compensation they’re entitled to by law. We can help you explore your legal options. Simply contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation.